McDonald's is making big changes to its restaurants. Here's why

We never thought we'd see the day when we might describe McDonald's as being environmentally friendly, yet here we are. In late 2019, during the launch of its sustainability program called "Better M" in Europe, McDonald's told New Food Magazine it was looking at areas that it viewed were key to a sustainability platform, including packaging, recycling, and climate action. Part of that included taking away McFlurry lids across the continent, launching a fiber-based drinks lid, and exploring edible packaging.

Closer to home, McDonald's set a goal of reducing emissions from its corporate offices and restaurants by 36 percent within a decade. With that in mind, it launched a unique new restaurant at Walt Disney World in Florida. This restaurant's claim to fame isn't its menu (which most of us know by heart and are lovin' it) — it is McDonald's first restaurant to run on completely self-generated solar power, so it can reach a net goal of zero energy. This means the restaurant is theoretically equipped to produce enough energy to run on its own (via Fast Company).

This could be the McDonald's of the future

The new restaurant covers 8,024 square feet of space, which is almost double the average McDonald's restaurant, which measured at 4,500 square feet in 2016 (via Statista). Every part of the building features solar panels designed to convert the sun's power into electricity. There is a "living wall" made up of plants which need less water, and which are capable of absorbing rainwater so flooding can be prevented (via Business Insider). 

Think about this restaurant as the McDonald's of the future, because as Fast Company reports, the new solar-powered location will act as an incubator for potential sustainability solutions that the fast food giant could roll out to its restaurants. One of the gadgets the company is testing is a burger cooker that can go into standby mode when there are fewer customers. 

Architects who designed the building say the features at this innovative, eco-friendly McDonald's can be implemented elsewhere. "McDonald's isn't going to turn around tomorrow and tell all the franchisees that they have to have and put solar panels all over their store," Chicago architect, and the concept's designer, Carol Ross Barney tells Fast Company. "But I do think that there will be some applications that can be used in all stores, and will be used in all stores, in the future."